News And Press

May 2020 - Recreational Fixed Gear Permit Byelaw

The Recreational Fixed Gear Permit Byelaw was also introduced in May 2020. However due to Covid-19 pandemic restrictions we will not require any recreational fishermen to have permits or use tags during 2020.


In 2021 we will have set up a system through which recreational fishermen (either resident or visitors) can purchase a permit and tags. There is a limit of one recreational permit per person, and up to six tags will be issued for a fee of £3 per tag. Further details can be seen here within the byelaw. In summary there are additional conditions: the permit and tags are not transferable; tags must be attached to the marker buoy, marker buoys must show the permit holder's unique number and the use of store pots is prohibited.

Further details for this byelaw will be produced in advance of the 2021 season.

We are pleased to see good practice being followed by hobby fishermen this year across Scilly. Please remember to clearly mark your buoys, ensure floating rope is not a navigation hazard and to avoid shooting gear in transit routes.

May 2020 - New Byelaw introduced for crawfish minimum size

The crawfish minimum landing size byelaw has now come into force. The Byelaw requires all commercial and hobby fishermen to ensure that no crawfish (also known as spiny lobster) of less than 95mm carapace length are landed. The purpose of the byelaw is to support the sustainable harvest of crawfish within the district. The need for this byelaw was highlighted by fishermen in 2017 following research that had been undertaken by the IFCA in collaboration with the IFCA. 

There has been a resurgence of this species around South West England in the last few years, and this new Minimum Landing Size is equivalent to measures that have been introduced in Cornwall and Devon and Severn IFCA Districts.

We plan to continue to research stocks to understand more about the life history and populations of this species.

The byelaw can be seen here


 

July 2019 - A day in the life of an IFCA volunteer

Hi! I’m Beth. I’m a Marine Biology undergraduate student from the University of Exeter. Over the past two weeks I have been volunteering for the Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority in the Isles of Scilly. We have just started a new shellfish monitoring project to tell us more about the populations of lobster, crawfish and edible crab here on the islands. All three of these species are important to Scillonian fisheries as the local fishermen rely on healthy numbers of shellfish for income and to supply food to people within the island community and on the mainland.

I was really excited to get involved with the project and to be out on the water every day. I had previously worked on boats and carried out at-sea monitoring, but the whole sector of fisheries was new to me. I have never held, measured or sexed a lobster before, and was nervous I might return to the mainland with a few less fingers!

On the final Saturday of June I embarked on the Scillonian ferry from Penzance, full of excitement and anticipation for the weeks that lay ahead. I felt over the moon to get to return to the Scillies: I had spent family holidays there, so the islands held many childhood memories for me. However, this was to be the first time I had been back in 10 years and I was intrigued to find out how much it had changed.

Elsa, (fellow volunteer and former employee at the National Lobster Hatchery), and I were shown around the island and settled into our tent on the Garrison campsite before the work began. Each morning we would rise from our sleeping bags, grab some breakfast and head down to the harbour to climb aboard a fishing boat and set out to sea. The days varied depending on which fishermen we worked with; many stayed fairly close to shore, around the main islands and their rocky neighbours. However, on occasion we went further offshore until land was out of sight. The fishermen work very hard, staying out at sea for long hours and hauling heavy gear.

The fishermen have strings of pots positioned all around the islands. Once the marker buoy was picked up, the pots were hauled up onto the deck, their contents emptied one by one and passed to us to record. For every pot we sampled, we sexed and measured all the lobsters, crabs and crawfish. All bycatch was recorded and we noted down additional details such as sea conditions, location and depth. Individuals large enough to land were put to one side in a bucket, whilst all those that were undersized or berried (females with eggs) were marked with pen on the top of their carapace and then returned to the sea.

Once the whole string was up on deck, the fisherman would decide where to put the pots back and then shoot them one by one off the back of the boat, before we moved on to pick up the next set of pots.

We would travel from string to string, carrying out the process of hauling pots on deck, seeing what is inside and recording data. Once all the strings were complete, the fisherman banded the lobsters and kept them cool in a container as we returned to St Mary’s harbour.

Back on land, we headed to the office to enter all the data that was collected from the day and clean down our equipment. Soon after it was time to head back up to our tent for dinner and a bit of a rest before it all started again.

We have thoroughly enjoyed the unique experience of getting an insight into the daily lives of Scillonian fishermen and it has given us opportunity to understand how their needs must be taken into account when forming conservation policies. We are excited for the project to continue in the coming years and to see how the data can inform sustainable management of local fisheries. During my time here, I have loved meeting new people and have been able to reminisce about my experiences as a child on the islands. Although I am sad to be leaving, I know that this time it will be far less than a decade before I return!

June 2019 University of Plymouth - an in depth look at our seabed habitats

In June we have been joined once more by Dr Emma Sheehan and Dr Luke Holmes, specialists in the use of towed video to assess and monitor underwater habitats. Working with local fisherman, Adam Morton from his boat ‘The Kestrel’ and IFCA officer Ricky Pender, the researchers have spent ten days ground truthing the information obtained in May. A video sled is towed very slowly just above the bottom, enabling us to determine the exact nature of the seabed and the species that are living there. To look at what is living inside the sea bed, the team have been using a ‘Shipek grab’ to scoop up a small sample of the surface layer.

Once the survey is completed Dr Sheehan and her team will examine the data and develop fine scale maps that characterise the different seabed types. Alongside this will be a Geographical Information System (GIS) that will show varying levels of sensitivity to fishing. A key question for us is to understand how pressure from existing and new fishing activities could impact these species and habitats. In reviewing one of our key byelaws, the IFCA Committee has an important decision to make to ensure that our district continues to be sustainably managed.

May 2019 Surveys with Cornwall IFCA

Cornwall IFCA and their research vessel Tiger Lily came over for three days in May to survey the seabed to the east of St. Mary’s. This is the first part of a research project that will provide vital data on seabed habitats and species living in these grounds. This project has been funded by EMFF to provide us with vital data on the seabed habitats and species in fishing grounds to the east of St. Marys and to develop a tool that will help make better informed decisions about how these grounds should be sustainably used and managed. Outside of the rocky reef habitat that surrounds the islands, the seabed drops away quickly to a depth of between 60 and 80 metres. Here the ground would be made up of a mosaic of mixed sand and gravel sediments. This habitat will be home to animals such as starfish, sea urchins, sea firs and many burrowing animals such as bristleworms, sand mason worms, burrowing anemones, carpet shell clams and venus cockles.

The survey team spent three days in their survey vessel Tiger Lily, tracking back and forth towing a side scan sonar for over 120 miles. These tracks provide a rough indication of the shape, consistency and structure of the seabed, showing where there are reef and rock outcrops, sand banks.

We are very grateful for the support of Colin Trundle and his team.

March 2019 Review of key Isles of Scilly IFCA Byelaw

For over forty years, the Isles of Scilly IFCA has had a 'fishing gear permit' byelaw which has helped to ensure that our district is fished sustainably by limiting vessel size and types of gear that can be used. The current byelaw was made in 2013 and it is best practice to review byelaws every five years to ensure that they meet their objectives.
Over the next two years Scilly IfCA will be reviewing this byelaw with an aim of ensuring that we can continue to sustainably manage fishing activity in our district. Our first step will be to engage with all stakeholders through workshops and meetings. This should give us a clearer idea of how our byelaw can operate most effectively.
We intend to build on our knowledge of catch landings and current market prices to have a better understanding of the socio-economic value of fishing in Scilly. This would include vessels that operate in Scilly and are based elsewhere. We will also be gathering information on types of fishing that are used in our district and where they overlap.
With support from Cornwall IFCA we are going to carry out various subsea accoustic and video surveys which will be undertaken within our six mile limit. These will provide insight into the deeper sea habitats and their current condition.
Do get in touch with us if you have any comments or questions about the review process.  

July 2018 - Rare Jellyfish Species

Isles of Scilly IFCA provided support for a team from Natural England who were looking for two rare species – stalked jellyfish and giant gobies.

Stalked Jellyfish are unusual in that unlike most jellyfish species, they have no free-swimming life stage. Adults attach upside-down to seagrass and seaweeds and feed by waving their tentacles to pick up particles in the current.

Giant gobies are at the northern limit of their range in Britain so are a rare find in our waters. They are the largest goby species found in Britain, growing up to 27cm. This species live in rock pools where they can tolerate the high range of different temperatures and salinity. Their diet ranges from seaweeds, invertebrates such as shrimps and other fish.

The team from Natural England successfully found giant gobies in the Men A Vaur to White Island MCZ and three different species of stalked jellyfish in the Penninis to Dry Ledge MCZ and Higher Town MCZs. It is great for us to build our knowledge of these rare and overlooked species – they remain faithful to very small areas so future surveys will look to ensure that these species continue to thrive in the waters around the Isles of Scilly.

October 2018 - Plymouth University video surveys reveal some of the amazing life on reefs around the Isles of Scilly


Dr Emma Sheehan and Dr Luke Holmes were on Scilly last week to do some surveys in collaboration with the Isles of Scilly IFCA. They have brought with them an impressive range of kit for a short research project that has been funded by Natural England. 
Working across our Marine Conservation Zones we are looking at different technology and techniques that will enable us to monitor the health of our marine habitats and key species and how they might change in the future. 

Using a video camera towed across the seabed enables us to cover much larger areas of seabed at depths that would not be easily accessible to divers. Below twenty metres or so, the kelp and thong weed give way to a rocky landscape of boulders, cliffs and chasms encrusted with sponges, ross coral and gardens of jewel anemones. ‘Flying’ the camera behind the boat at very low speeds works well when the seabed contours are fairly consistent, but the rugged underwater has proven really challenging for the team to survey. 

The other technique that we have been trialling are baited video cameras. We used pieces of mackerel in a wire feeder attached to a short aluminium pole. Sitting still on the reef for between 30 and 90 minutes, a video camera in an underwater housing records the animals that come to feed on the bait. This method enable us to count the numbers and type of species that we see on the reef. 

Dr Sheehan has been surveying reefs across the UK for over 15 years and believes the reefs on Scilly are in the best condition that she has ever seen. The activity in front of the baited video cameras was incredible, with species such as bull huss, spiny lobster and other crabs competing for the bait. The Bristows to Stones is the only MCZ that is not within the main islands, extending out from between three and six miles offshore around these two main reefs. Some of our initial surveys seem to indicate that the reef habitat may extend a great deal further from where it is currently mapped.  

In the future we hope to build on these surveys to build up a picture of what is happening on the reefs and other marine habitats around Scilly. Ultimately we need to keep our finger on the pulse and ensure that the environment remains healthy and resilient.

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